MotoGP 2017 – Round 15 – Motegi

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2017 MotoGP content on MCNews.com.au brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils

Zarco takes his second ever premier class pole

Nakagami victor in Moto2 pole shootout

Bulega proves top Moto3 rider in QP


In a stunning turn of form it would be Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who took a last minute pole position in the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, only his second ever in the premier class, with the leading time placed late in qualifying, with no other riders subsequently able to match his form in drying conditions.

Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) took second as another to navigate the wet-but-drying track conditions well, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completing the front row after gambling on slicks at the end of the session.

Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) shocked for a last minute pole position in the Motul Grand Prix of Japan – his second in the permier class – taking the honour late in the session and no further laps able to challenge the Frenchman.

Johann Zarco
Johann Zarco
Johann Zarco – P1

“I am so happy about this pole position. The team and I did some great work since FP1. There, it was raining all the time, and I think that I improved the feeling of the bike a lot, plus I have grown up in this condition. For qualifying, it was a bit different because the track was drying, but not enough to use the slick tyres. However, I knew that I could feel really good and try things in order to be faster than my opponents in these conditions. It worked and I am so happy for that. Now, I need to use this opportunity to stay in front, whether it rains or not, and do the best race that I can and I will dream about the podium.”

Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) took second as another to navigate the wet-but-drying track conditions well.

Danilo Petrucci
Danilo Petrucci
Danilo Petrucci – P2

“I’m very happy because I didn’t expect it. This morning the feeling wasn’t perfect and I couldn’t be as fast as I hoped. In qualifying we made a very good strategy by making the most of the time available. It’s a pity that I made a mistake on one of the last corners otherwise I could have finished with the pole position. But it doesn’t matter. The front row start is very good and starting ahead is very important in this circuit. I am very confident for tomorrow”.

Reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completing the front row after gambling on slicks at the end of the session.

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez – P3

“The result is good but clearly the slicks today weren’t the right choice, as it was a bit too early for them. Anyway, you always have to look at the positive side of things, which in this case, firstly is that we’re still on the front row, as we had already done a very good lap time on rain tyres; and secondly is that we managed to understand a few things in case of a flag-to-flag race. I’m also happy I saved a crash when I set my fastest time and avoided my team missing dinner tonight! I think we’ve had a good weekend so far, being able to do well in every session in the wet, keeping a fast pace in quite challenging conditions, and that’s very positive. Tomorrow it looks like it will rain again, but we’ll see; we could also have mixed conditions, and in that case we will have to be ready for every situation”.

With a dry line beginning to appear by the start of MotoGP Q2 session, it was the KTMs of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith moving through to join the top ten in the shootout – and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) sending immediate shockwaves through the field as he headed out on slicks straight away. That would prove the wrong decision, and the nine-time World Champion was then forced back in to switch.

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi – P12

“This morning we started well, because with the full wet session, like yesterday, we improved the setting of the bike a lot. I was quite fast and it was good, but unfortunately with less water on the track we suffered a lot. Also for this reason we risked using the slicks, because the track was becoming dryer. We were hoping it would dry quickly, but unfortunately it was still too wet. We have to wait to see what the conditions will be like tomorrow. With more water on track we can be quite strong, with less water we‘re struggling. The crash in FP4 was quite big, but I was lucky. No problems, just a little bit with the finger, but the important thing is that the leg is OK.”

Marquez, meanwhile, was 1.6 seconds clear at the top when he decided to try slicks – despite a moment on the wet tyres on what would prove his fastest lap. That left a target on P1 for many in the field still pushing hard on wets, with Zarco best able to take the challenge to the reigning Champion and Petrucci then taking second – with Marquez therefore locking out the front row.

Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro

Heading the second row and fulfilling his Friday target is Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), who just missed out on lining up further forward in the latter stages of his last lap.

Aleix Espargaro – P4

“I am definitely satisfied, not only with the qualifiers, but with the entire weekend so far. We have been competitive in every session and we showed that we have a great pace in the wet. Qualifying was demanding. The track in mixed conditions is certainly not the optimum situation for us. In any case, I was able to earn a good starting position, the best for Aprilia in MotoGP, and for this I must thank the entire team. We need to keep going like this. As for my choice of tyres if the track is very wet, that is not a problem. I hope it rains tomorrow because in those conditions we demonstrated that we can be extremely fast and consistent. If we look at the practice sessions, we are in the group contending for the top positions, but on Sunday anything can happen. A lot of riders who are having difficulties today, like Rossi and Viñales, will be in the game for the race.”

Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) taking fifth on his final push and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) locking out Row 2.

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo – P5

“I was just a few tenths off improving my fifth place, but at any rate starting tomorrow from the second row is not so bad. Conditions in qualifying were not ideal for us, because the track was drying, and I think that if the track had been wetter we could have got a better result. In any case the most important thing is to be in a good position for the start, also because tomorrow it will probably rain and in these conditions I think we’ve got a good base set-up. We’ve worked well and I feel good on the bike. The key to the race could be the choice of tyres: if the track dries, it’ll be vitally important to manage the tyre wear in the best possible way, and if the track stays wet until the very end I think we can certainly fight for the podium.”

Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa – P6

“Today qualifying was difficult, as the conditions were changing and the track was drying. I didn’t feel at ease with the tyres in my first exit, as I suffered too much spinning. I stopped and changed the tyres and I felt better, so I was able to improve my lap time. Mixed conditions are always challenging for making the right choices regarding the bike setting, but today we worked a lot on the electronics and understood more about the track itself when it’s completely wet and when it’s half-and-half. Now we have to wait for tomorrow, see what the weather will be like, and try to be ready for the race.”

The KTMs were next up, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) initially taking a provisional front row before times began to further tumble, and by the flag it was teammate Bradley Smith who just pipped the Spaniard. The Austrian factory machines will start seventh and eighth; Espargaro only 0.034 in arrears.

Bradley Smith
Bradley Smith
Bradley Smith – P7

“Today was one of those days where with those drying track conditions it could have gone either way at the end of Q1 but I was 2nd right behind Pol. A great result for us! In Q2 itself I knew I had to be smart with my knowledge of Q1 and use the tyre in the right way when the track was as dry as possible. We are 7th on the grid tomorrow and that makes our life so much easier. It looks like it will be a wet race tomorrow which makes the start even more critical because this track can get very wet indeed that in turn gives a lot of spray. However; today was crucial and I took the opportunity when it was there so to do this for KTM, the team and for all my guys on my side of the garage, it feels very good indeed.”

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro – P8

“In these tricky conditions you have to make your own luck but it worked. You need to be fast but in these conditions as you never know what the next corner can give to you so we did well to do these lap times. I’m very happy for the guys in the garage and in Austria as so many people are working so hard for us to get these good results. Another great day for KTM in MotoGP. For the race tomorrow, let’s see what the weather is going to do but whatever happens, it is going to be a Sunday to enjoy.”

Title challenger Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) had a more difficult session and ended Q2 in P9, with Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone taking tenth and eleventh. Rossi, after his early gamble on slicks, lines up in P12.

Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Dovizioso – P9

“Pity about my grid position: in qualifying I wasn’t able to do a good lap and the track was in quite a difficult condition, half wet and half dry. You had to interpret it in just a few laps and I wasn’t able to get the best out of it, also because on my fast lap the front turned in on me at Turn 9 and I almost finished off the track, as well as losing a bit of time. Pity about ninth place and the third row, but if it’s very wet tomorrow, like yesterday, I think we can do a really good race.”

After going third fastest in Q1, Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) will line up behind the nine-time World Champion, and just ahead of the second factory Yamaha Maverick Viñales, who had a tough Saturday.

Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales – P14

“I had the same problem today as I had all year in the wet: I had a lot of spin and couldn‘t ride the bike the way I wanted to in these conditions. We are working hard and giving it everything. The qualifying result is what it is and now we focus on working for tomorrow. We know where we‘re losing time, but it‘s difficult to fix it in just one weekend. We are going to do our best, we‘ll try to improve for tomorrow and score as many points as possible.”

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) starts fifteenth, after missing out on Q1 following a moment at the final corner on his last lap.

Now it’s time to race. Wet, dry, something in between…it all remains to be seen at Motegi, with the title contenders split throughout the field and some dark horses beginning to emerge. Tune in at 14:00 (GMT +9) on Sunday to see the Japanese GP kick the flyaways into gear.

MotoGP 2017 – Motegi Sat Qualifying Classification
  1. Johann ZARCO FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’53.469
  2. Danilo PETRUCCI ITA OCTO Pramac Racing +0.318
  3. Marc MARQUEZ SPA Repsol Honda Team +0.434
  4. Aleix ESPARGARO SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +0.478
  5. Jorge LORENZO SPA Ducati Team +0.766
  6. Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team +0.873
  7. Bradley SMITH GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing  +1.403
  8. Pol ESPARGARO SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +1.437
  9. Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Ducati Team +1.595
  10. Alex RINS SPA Team SUZUKI ECSTAR +2.014
  11. Andrea IANNONE ITA Team SUZUKI ECSTAR +2.148
  12. Valentino ROSSI ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +4.317
  13. Loris BAZ FRA Reale Avintia Racing Q1
  14. Maverick VIÑALES SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Q1
  15. Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR LCR Honda Q1
  16. Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team Q1
  17. Hector BARBERA SPA Reale Avintia Racing Q1
  18. Sam LOWES GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Q1
  19. Tito RABAT SPA EG 0,0 Marc VDS Q1
  20. Karel ABRAHAM CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team Q1
  21. Hiroshi AOYAMA JPN EG 0,0 Marc VDS Q1
  22. Scott REDDING GBR OCTO Pramac Racing Q1
  23. Katsuyuki NAKASUGA JPN Yamalube Yamaha Factory Rac Q1
  24. Kohta NOZANE JPN Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Q1
MotoGP 2017 - Motegi - MotoGP Qualifying Classification
MotoGP 2017 – Motegi – MotoGP Qualifying Classification

Nakagami victor in Moto2 pole shootout

Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) will start from pole for his home Grand Prix after an incredible final shootout in qualifying at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, snatching the honour from Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) on his final push as conditions went from marginal to slicks within the session.

The Japanese rider had been well outside the top twenty in the initial stages but bounced back in style. Marquez starts from P2 after recovering from an early throttle problem, ahead of Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing), who was another to time his attack to perfection – taking his first front row start.

Takaaki Nakagami took an incredible pole position at the Twin Ring Motegi, whilst title contenders Lüthi and Morbidelli are 13th and 15th

Remy Gardner
Remy Gardner

Aussie Remy Gardner will begin the round 15 fight from the head of the 7th row. After a promising performance in the wet at the beginning of the qualifying shootout, Gardner is confident for any condition tomorrow and he intends to close the weekend with a solid point scoring result.

Remy Gardner – P19

“The qualifying was strange but the weather conditions were tricky throughout the day. The start of the session was really good when we used the wet tyres, but the track was drying quickly and I knew that we would have to run on slicks. In fact, it was similar to Argentina earlier this year, but we performed better here. However, I still think that we should have used a full dry setting in the end when we used the slicks. It would have been useful to have looked at some of the other riders to see where they were getting the grip instead of riding on my own. There are a few things that I could have done better but tomorrow is the race and it looks like the conditions will be mixed again so we will have to play it by ear but I am confident.”

After some riders attempting to use slicks in the earlier MotoGP qualifying session, it looked set to be a dry shootout at the end of the session for the intermediate class – and it didn’t disappoint.

The early pacesetters on slicks were Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and FP3’s fastest in the wet Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia), before the final battle came down to Nakagami vs Marquez vs Vierge – and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team).

After all four crossed the line, it was Pasini who just missed the front row and took P4, joined on Row 2 by Oliveira and Syahrin. Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and teammate Marcel Schrötter took P7 and P8, with Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) and fastest rookie Augusto Fernandez (Speed Up Racing) completing the top ten.

Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) was eleventh, ahead of Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) – with Championship challenger Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) having a difficult qualifying in P13. But the Swiss rider can take some heart from the position of his key rival for the crown, as Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) qualified in P15 – behind first Lüthi and Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) in P14.

MotoGP 2017 - Motegi - Moto2 Qualifying Classification
MotoGP 2017 – Motegi – Moto2 Qualifying Classification

Bulega proves top Moto3 rider heading into Motegi race day

Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) has taken a stunning pole position for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan after going fastest on Friday and seeming the man to beat for much of the weekend.

With conditions still wet and looking to remain so, the Italian has barely looked back since topping FP1 after an 18-lap non-stop stint – something that should set him up well for race day. It’s his second ever pole position, the other having come at Jerez in 2016 when a rookie.

Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was another impressive Italian in qualifying for the lightweight class and set the second fastest lap in the session to secure the middle of the front row, bouncing back in style from a highside in FP3 and able to move within a few tenths of Bulega towards the end of the session. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) completes the front row, moving up on his penultimate lap.

Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is P11, with Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) putting in a solid session for P12 despite a crash. Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) moved up later in the session to take thirteenth.

Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is P11, with Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) putting in a solid session for P12 despite a crash. Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) moved up later in the session to take thirteenth.

That left Championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) – currently 80 points clear – in P14, and the story gets worse: the Majorcan has a six-place grid penalty to serve in the Japanese GP, and therefore looks likely to start 20th. That means Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Livio Loi (Leopard Racing) should move up to fill the last two of the top fifteen grid positions.

Aussie wildcard Tom Toparis (Cube Racing) qualified 31st, struggling with the wet conditions, but was positive heading into Sunday, while hoping for dry weather.

MotoGP 2017 - Motegi - Moto3 QP Classification
MotoGP 2017 – Motegi – Moto3 Qualifying Classification